The Coal Authority’s commercial manager reports on the enhanced coal mining reports service

The Coal Authority’s Mining Reports Service provides information on past, present and future underground and surface coal mining activity for any individual property or site in Britain. It is a highly computerised service utilising the award-winning Mining Reports & Surface Damage System (MRSDS) and draws on a unique database of coal mining information.

Despite the continued success of the current service, the Coal Authority, in response to customer feedback and working closely with the Law Society of Scotland, will launch an enhanced mining report service on 30th September 2003.

The enhanced service includes:

  • Updated User Guidance and Directory;
  • Updated ScotForm (2003) Coal Mining Search Form;
  • Insurance cover with all residential property mining reports and certificates;
  • An interpretive report service;
  • A revised fee structure;
  • The development and launch of the next generation computerised Mining Reports & Surface Damage System (MRSDS2).

Updated User Guidance and Directory

An updated version of the Coal Mining Searches Directory and User Guidance will be included within the 2003 edition of the Directory of Services for Conveyancers to be published by Butterworths Lexis Nexis. The Guide describes the increased choice of ways that solicitors can order, receive and pay for mining reports and other services. In particular, the Authority’s online service (www.coalminingreports. co.uk) removes the dependence on conventional mail delivery, and combined with alternative payment methods, has significantly contributed to reducing the time and effort needed to complete property searches. Practitioners can also benefit from the Authority’s online directory which provides immediate online confirmation on entering a house name or number and postcode as to whether a coal mining search is recommended or not. By its nature, this electronic referral system is more precise than using a printed listing of place names.

The Guide also includes the terms and conditions under which the Coal Authority provides coal mining reports. These have been approved by the Law Society of Scotland and apply to all searches made including those using the ScotForm enquiry form.

Practitioners are asked to bring this updated Guide to the notice of all their staff who use the Coal Authority’s Mining Report Service.

Updated ScotForm (2003) Coal Mining Search Form

For those Practitioners not using electronic means, coal mining searches should be made using the updated ScotForm (2003) coal mining search form which has been approved by the Society and the Coal Authority. The new form will be available from September 2003 from the Society, telephone 0131 226 7411, or accessed and downloaded from the Authority’s website at www.coalminingreports.co.uk. In the meanwhile, and until 31st December 2003, the existing ScotForm (1998) can be used, though the reports will be issued under the 2003 terms and conditions. Whilst the questions on the new ScotForm (2003) remain the same, the front of the form has been amended to better reflect the Authority’s enquiry logging process, the option to have reports returned by email and the introduction back in April 2002 of the Residential and non-Residential or Development search options. Again practitioners are asked to bring these changes to the attention of staff involved in ordering coal mining reports, particularly where electronic versions of the old 1998 form are held that require updating to be consistent with the new form.

Insurance cover

From 30th September, all Coal Authority residential mining reports and certificates will include insurance cover. No separate application is necessary to enjoy the benefits of this insurance as it is included within the mining report fee. The insurance will be provided to owners of property to mitigate against any loss of value, up to a maximum of £20,000, attributable to any material change of the mining information in a subsequent residential mining report from that contained in the report to which the insurance attaches. Similar cover will apply to residential “search not required certificates” acquired with the benefit of insurance.

The benefit to practitioners is the elimination to a large extent of the issue as to how long a mining report remains valid. It will also provide property owners, solicitors, conveyancers, lenders and insurers with considerable peace of mind against the possibility of changes on the coal mining database subsequently resulting in a diminution in property value. The insurance cover takes account of circumstances where the original report was obtained by the seller of the property as part of any Home Information Pack process that may be introduced or where the property is being sold by way of auction. Cover is also provided where a coal mining report is obtained in the event of a remortgage of the property or where the owner simply elects to obtain a coal mining report.

The insurance does not cover non-residential property.

The insurance has been designed and arranged by Tyser (UK) Ltd, part of Tyser Group (Lloyd’s insurance brokers, established 1820) and is underwritten by Groupama Insurance Company via Legal & Contingency Ltd.

Interpretive Report Service

Also on 30th September, the Authority will introduce an Interpretive Report Service. These interpretive reports provide more detailed analysis and advice about mine entries. This will include a risk assessment as to whether, in the expert opinion of the Coal Authority, the main building of the property is inside or outside the possible zone of ground movement from any reported mine entry. In carrying out this risk assessment, the Authority will take account of the geology beneath the property (based on data provided by the British Geological Survey), the possible difference between the actual and plotted position of the mine entry, its source and its likely size. Opinion will also be given where the main building is considered clear of the zone of ground movement but the possibility of coal mining subsidence damage to the garden areas or other buildings cannot be discounted. Where property lies inside the zone of influence of a mine entry, the Authority will provide comprehensive advice as to the rights of property owners and the remedial obligations of the Authority or licensed operators.

The Interpretive Report has been created to resolve the difficulties being experienced in some parts of the country where properties have lost value as a consequence of a mining report disclosing the presence of disused mine entries. Emphasis has been given to customer needs in the design, content and format of the report, which follows extensive customer liaison, as well as with the Law Society, Council of Mortgage Lenders, Association of British Insurers and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, to ensure its introduction is beneficial to property professionals and the property buying public alike.

Consistent with the Authority’s track record for providing fast, accurate and cost-effective property search services, the Interpretive Report is priced at £40 + VAT, with the aim being to return reports within 48 hours of receipt of request. The service will be available as a value-added optional extra for any customer receiving a residential coal mining report that discloses a mine entry. In these circumstances, the initial mining report will advise of the availability and cost of the Interpretive Report and the procedure for ordering one.

Revised Fee Structure

As a Non-Departmental Government Body, the Coal Authority runs the Mining Reports Service on a cost recovery basis, consistent with the requirements of the Treasury’s Fees and Charges Guide. Following consultation with the Society, the Coal Authority is changing its fee structure for coal mining reports from 30th September 2003. These changes are necessary to ensure the Authority is able to maintain the service levels currently enjoyed by its customers, to meet the cost of improvements to the service being made in response to customer demand and to reflect the increased effort and unit-cost of handling postal and telephone requests for residential property searches compared with those for users of electronic services.

The full charging structure is shown in Table 1 for completeness. All fees are shown inclusive of VAT.

From 30th September, the Authority will also introduce a volume related retrospective discount to high volume users of the Authority’s electronic services to reflect the cost saving benefits associated with managing these accounts. The payments will be made to each individual business unit /account customer that meets the criteria set out below and will be paid retrospectively following receipt of the monthly invoiced payment to which the discount relates (see table 2).

Practitioners are asked to bring this information to the attention of their colleagues and staff affected by these changes.

Next Generation MRSDS System to go live October 2003

As mentioned at the outset, the Coal Authority’s Mining Reports Service is a highly computerised service which utilises their award winning Mining Reports & Surface Damage System (MRSDS) and draws on a unique database of coal mining information. This allows the Authority to provide a fast, accurate and cost effective service delivering over 550,000 searches each year, including over 65,000 in Scotland.

To deal with the ever increasing demand for coal mining reports and other services provided by the Authority and to maintain the excellent service levels for which the Authority is known, work has been ongoing to develop the next generation MRSDS system and this will be introduced in late October 2003.

Whilst it is anticipated that the introduction of the new system will be relatively trouble free, practitioners are advised to order coal mining searches as early as possible in the conveyancing process. This will ensure timely return of mining reports and avoid any potential difficulties in meeting scheduled completion times. Whilst these issues will have less impact on users of the Authority’s on-line services, this request to carry out searches as early as possible is also being asked of these practitioners.

Should practitioners have any queries related to any of the items discussed in this article they should contact the Coal Authority directly on 0845 762 6848 or by email at miningreports@coal.gov.uk

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